The third Short Trek brings us a pre-USS Discovery glimpse into the life of one of the series’ standout characters: Saru (Doug Jones). In doing so, it brings to light the weird contradictions in the species’ origins, especially in the Star Trek universe.
On the planet Kaminar, Saru feels unfulfilled by Kelpien life, living a simple agrarian existence while waiting to be harvested as food by the predatory Ba’ul who regular send probes to collect willing sacrifices. Disobeying his father, Saru secretly holds on to a piece of discarded Ba’ul technology and uses it to send a message into space. A message which is received by the USS Shenzhou.
“The Brightest Star” raises some interesting questions about the Prime Directive, from the Shenzhou’s decision to make first contact and take a passenger on board from a pre-warp civilisation world because of an interstellar cold call to the Federation’s turning a blind eye to the Ba’ul’s farming of another sentient species. Lieutenant Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) must be quite the silver-tongued negotiator given she not only convinced Starfleet to break their most sacred law to land on an undeveloped world and offer their apparently most advanced and intelligent citizen the chance to leave but then convinces Saru to pack up and leave his home, his family and his people forever in the space of a few minutes without Saru even once asking what the Federation policy on anal probes is.
It doesn’t really add anything to Saru’s backstory because it doesn’t really provide any satisfying explanation for the Kelpien civilisation and ends up being the dullest alien abduction story ever filmed. Where “Runaway” and “Calypso” seemed to be forward-thinking variations on “Star Trek: Discovery”, “The Brightest Star” feels like a season 1 throwback, a deleted scene – possibly from “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” – that’s been dusted off and given an undeserved second chance as a Short Trek.